While I’ve taken a look at Flud before, its initial resemblance to Pulse left me uninterested. Flud, in their attempt to meld the news you were interested in with social media, never quite stood out enough from the competition or encouraged me to actively share articles with my friends. That was the case, but like Flipboard, Flud has a substantial update with a second version of their social news reader.
Flud 2.0 throws out its sharp-edged interface for an elegant carousel, containing the subscription’s headlines which scroll vertically to reveal more content. The interface, fluid and responsive when article images don’t need to be cached, differentiates itself from the likes of Flipboard and Pulse — sidestepping a magazine or traditional RSS-like experience — by presenting an open canvas (or in other words a very fancy grid) to discover content. There are some similarities with services like News.me in the updated Flud, with the main focus revolving around following your friends or idols who will curate interesting content.
Flud has always had the ability to connect your Twitter and Facebook friends. In connecting with either of these services, you allow your followers and friends to discover you and receive recommendations on Flud. To “Flud” (recommend) a news article, you can like the post by tapping on a heart as well as alternatively sharing the article to your Twitter or Facebook feed. Articles that are endorsed are recommended to your followers who can read “Fluded” content at their leisure. An activity view (available by viewing your profile) lets you know about the articles your friends have been reading, what they’ve been sharing, and who they influenced in the course of endorsing content.
The social aspect gives readers insight into the reading habits, peculiarities, and personalities of their fans through aggregation of endorsed items in their feeds. Flud will only recommend articles that users themselves have liked, attempting to ensure that you only read the best content available. Like Flipboard, Flud requires its own user account to sync content between the iPad and the iPhone. For sharing and reading, Flud supports Read It Later, Instapaper, Google Reader, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook accounts.
Flud does a couple things right. I love seeing custom titles for each subscription, with sites like TechCrunch and Engadget having their own custom banners and fonts. The article and subscription views are excellent, providing a grand overview of everything you have to read (there is no excess flipping through content). The activity feed, while possibly as intrusive as Facebook when it comes to sharing everything you do (what if that article I read ends up being embarrassing or a bad article?), gives you the opportunity to discover new content. Sometimes the article views, looking to fill in the grid with pictures, will grab an author’s photo or a website banner instead, which can be annoying if there was no article banner to begin with. The reading experience itself is generally excellent.
Flud wants you to do more than just consume your RSS feed. It wants you to actively participate in the news, sharing content with your friends and discovering new content in the process. Flud 2.0 is a beautiful upgrade that focuses on nailing down this experience, putting content front and center while keeping social activity close at hand. While activity streams can be noisy, your reading list is always available when the carousel of news runs out of interesting content. The only trouble with Flud is that to be useful, all of your friends have to be using the service. It’s not designed to be as passive as alternative readers, and to get you started the guys behind Flud are followed by default (kind of like when Tom added you on Myspace).
This is where I think Flud 2.0 is successful: it’s a news experience that allows you to pick and choose your favorite subscriptions, find others through Flud’s sources list, and casually flick through articles without the glut of traditional RSS readers. There is no excess interface — just streams of content that only reveal themselves as you swipe between subscriptions and tap on titles. You don’t get lost in the interface or the experience.
Flud 2.0 is free to download on the App Store for the iPhone and the iPad. If you don’t want to create an account to get started, Flud has a brillaint guest-mode that allows you to preview the experience beforehand.
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